Zurich’s Paradeplatz isn’t just famous for its banks, it also is home of the legendary Confiserie Sprüngli, producer of luxury chocolate and Luxemburgerli macaroons.
The company, which has the same origin but is now separate from the multinational Lindt & Sprüngli, is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. It is now run by the sixth generation of the family.
Easter is a busy time at the flagship store. The windows are brightly decorated with colourful treats; inside a man in a chef’s hat decorates chocolate eggs with small pink flowers.
Above the shop is the Sprüngli café, a traditional meeting place in the city for business people, tourists and ladies who lunch.
“Confiserie Sprüngli is very important to Zurich life. Everybody knows the delicate Luxemburgerli macaroons and truffles from Confiserie Sprüngli,” Julia Zogg from Zurich Tourism told swissinfo.ch.
In the family
Above the café is the office of CEO Tomas Prenosil, who along with his brother Milan who heads the board, has been running the company since 1994. They are the Czech-born nephews of the firm’s former figurehead, Richard Sprüngli, now aged 95.
“Confiserie Sprüngli has always been run by the family. My brother and myself are integrated in the process; we are not just a passive family getting money from the business, we are part of and work actively in the destiny of the company,” Tomas Prenosil told swissinfo.ch.
Prenosil was involved in the Confiserie from an early age, even if he studied law before deciding to join the family firm.
“Every child loves sweets and ice creams, which means you are perhaps emotionally more involved than perhaps for another company which produces tyres,” he explained.
The Sprüngli story started in 1836 when David Sprüngli bought a small baker’s shop on theMarktgasse in Zurich for 24,000 guilders.
His son, Rudolf, introduced chocolate production having been inspired by his travels in Italy and the pioneers in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, such as Henri Nestlé.
In 1859, the Paradeplatz shop was opened. The family was hoping for the main station to be built there. It wasn’t. But it was a lucky accident, as the Confiserie later found itself in what was to become an exclusive part of town.
Rudolf retired in 1892, sharing his company between his two sons. “He decided to give our company to the more tender, softer and more creative character [David Robert Sprüngli], the other, the chocolate factory, to more the manager, the tough guy [Johann Rudolf],” Prenosil said.
Since then the two companies have been independent, with Johann Rudolf joining forces with a Mr Lindt to start what is now a large public company, specialising in chocolate bars and pralines.
Confiserie Sprüngli focused on chocolates and pastries, using only fresh ingredients. Prices are at the top end, a box of chocolates is likely to set you back at least SFr30 ($34), an Easter Egg, SFr69-SFr130.
There are now 19 shops in Switzerland, 14 of them in and around Zurich. Revenue is around SFr100 million a year.
It was uncle Richard who introduced the Luxemburgerli, the fondant-filled mini macaroon – particularly appealing to those with a sweet tooth. He was inspired by a young pastry chef from Luxembourg, who worked for the company in the 1950s.
There are now around 50 flavours, of which 12-14 can be found in the shops at one time. Recently the company has had to contend with attempts to copy the Luxemburgerli. But Prenosil remained sanguine. “The good ones are copied, the bad ones copy”.
Big international expansion is not an option, he said. Nevertheless, the company has branched out into Dubai, where it has been running “Private Banking in Chocolate”, as the CEO likes to call it, for around two years.
Sprüngli specialities are delivered to clients, normally wealthy people who know the products from their travels to Zurich, through private sales. Prenosil said the operation was hit by the global financial crisis, but is now improving.
Since taking over, the Prenosil brothers have modified Sprüngli’s product range – they introduced early on a dark chocolate range – and have tried to modernise its image.
However, Sprüngli’s Swissness remains its cornerstone.
And Prenosil’s future aims? “To stay financially independent, keep the quality and freshness, keep our reputation and to be able to give the company over to the seventh generation.”
When the Sprünglis moved their business to what is now known as Paradeplatz in 1859, it was not yet a busy part of town. It had previously been the site of markets.
However, a new transport and commercial hub was developing around the Hotel Baur en Ville and the mail coach centre. The hoped-for main station was not built, but instead a direct link was constructed to it – the Bahnhofstrasse (station street).
Paradeplatz is now one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Switzerland – and indeed the world. Big banks Credit Suisse and UBS are located on the square.end of infobox
As part of the celebrations, a special cake, box of pralines and vintage boxes are being issued.
From July 16-August 20 a specially decorated tram featuring the history of the company will circulate around Zurich.end of infobox